Capitol compromise unlikely to come soon

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Compromise might be possible in Springfield, but it won’t be easy and it likely won’t come before midnight Sunday, the deadline for the scheduled legislative session.

Gov. Bruce Rauner at times sounded slightly upbeat and at times frustrated during a Friday afternoon news conference at the Executive Mansion.

He mentioned a morning meeting with the four legislative leaders and indicated Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, had expressed some interest in give and take.

There were statements in the morning meeting “that they’re willing to talk about compromise,” the governor said. “We’ll know by Sunday. We’ll either have deal Sunday night, or we won’t.’”

After midnight May 31, legislation requires a three-fifths vote in each chamber of the General Assembly, 71 votes in the House and 36 in the Senate.

Cullerton spoke to reporters after the morning meeting and indicated while his caucus was willing to negotiate, the thought of settling everything by Sunday night might be overly optimistic.

His spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon, said the senate president “again restated his commitment to work with the governor on reforms.”

As to the governor’s ideas that have not fared well in the Senate, “that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to work on a turnaround agenda that works for middle class families.”

Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said the speaker renewed his pledge to the governor to work with him “in a competent and professional manner.”

But during the meeting of leaders, Brown said, Madigan also asked Rauner how Democrats’ budget being $3 billion short was somehow different than Rauner’s own proposal being $3 billion light — and the speaker didn’t get an explanation.

And this spring session has been largely about two things: the budget and the governor’s “Turnaround Illinois” agenda.

Democrats have been hammering out a $36.3 billion spending plan that they acknowledge falls short of expected revenue by about $3 billion. They plan to send that budget to Rauner with the stated intent of working with him later on finding more revenue.

The Republican governor’s own budget proposal was for far less and called for no tax increases and increases for elementary and higher education, as well as prison staffing. But it also called for large cuts to human services and higher education spending.

Democrats contend Rauner’s budget included at least $3 billion in false savings or income that could not be realized in fiscal year 2016, including $2.2 billion from pensions.

The governor on Friday made clear he wouldn’t endorse an unbalanced budget. He added he would not support revenue increases without what he considers reforms needed to make Illinois more job competitive.

Those include term limits for elected officials; changes to the way legislative districts are mapped; changes to the workers compensation law; lawsuit reform; a property tax freeze; and greater local-government control over collective bargaining and wages.

“I cannot sign a fake budget, a phony budget, an out-of-balance budget. The people of Illinois deserve better,” the governor said.

Although he’d make himself available to negotiate just about anywhere at any time, Rauner said he would not hold lawmakers in Springfield for special session days unless an agreement was near. That, he said, would be simply wasteful.

The governor rejected the idea there’d been no time for lawmakers to consider his requests or to negotiate with one word — “baloney.”

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